So This Is What A Kia Optima Hybrid Is Really Like – Days Three-Five

Hi, I’m Charis Michelsen. I write about cars (among other important things). I’ve got a Kia Optima hybrid (there’s a giant robot joke in here somewhere, I’m sure) lurking in my parking spot this week. I will be playing with it to see what it does and does not do.

Technicalities about the car, if you’re curious, are in the first post.

Day Two (Still), 10:32pm

Okay, so I absolutely love the backup camera – I have no idea where the back of the car is without it. It’s fabulous. Except when it starts raining, because then this happens:

Although I’m pretty sure I could eventually figure out where the back of the car is and this wouldn’t really be an issue after a while.

I have also noticed that the passenger air bag says “off,” and I’m hoping that’s because there’s no one in the passenger seat and not because the air bag is broken.

Day Three, 01:08am

Okay, it’s cold and raining and the heated seats work fabulously well. As I’ve said. However, my friend in the passenger seat is apparently inhuman, because she thinks it’s warm enough to test the cooling function. The seats heat and cool brilliantly.

With someone in the passenger seat, the passenger air bag, by the way, now no longer says “off.” That’s handy.

Day Three, 1:48am

I finally found an exit ramp with no one on it! And that wasn’t one of the barely curved ones with a 50mph speed limit! (Because going 62mph on one of those is not impressive.)

So we took the 25mph ramp at 48mph and my friend was quite alarmed. It was totally fine. Let me keep telling you how grippy the Kia Optima hybrid is. I love this about it.

Day Three, 11:38am

An elderly acquaintance of mine says the car is fairly easy to get in and out of – points for being user-friendly to people with somewhat limited mobility.

Day Four, 7:04am

It has finally snowed. This is fabulous for multiple reasons – one, it’s snow, which is awesome but totally irrelevant here, and two, I get to see how the Optima does in sub-freezing weather.

Okay, so it’s not THAT much snow.

As it turns out, everything is fine. By the time I’d been driving for maybe two minutes, the seat was warm and I was getting warm air from the heater. The Kia heats up quickly, which is quite comfortable.

Day Four, 7:19am

Okay, I have found something I don’t like, and it’s something I previously had no feelings about – the GPS.  Remember how it goes “congestion ahead, would you like to reroute”? So I told it not to, because I know I-90 is going to be a nightmare at this time of the morning, and the GPS sends me onto the tollway anyway. At 7:20 on a weekday morning. To avoid congestion.

Does it look like I am avoiding congestion to you?

And then it kept repeating “congestion ahead, congestion ahead” until I got back off I-90. If you do not set the GPS to avoid highways, it will try to send you onto the highways anyway, regardless of traffic conditions. (Then it sent me down Petersen instead of Touhy, and Petersen is clogged with construction. I do not even.)

Day Four, 8:38pm

Speaking of the GPS, it also told me to take “Exit 2” off of I90-E but failed to tell me 2A or 2B (to be fair, Google’s driving directions and the off-brand plug-in GPS I, uh, inherited from my ex both did the same thing, because I went back to check).

I ended up taking exit 2A from way too close and a little faster than I should have (and this is not something I would repeat, and you shouldn’t do it either), but there was no skidding.  I felt some pretty heavy inertia, but the Optima handled it better than I did. (It was, by the way, the wrong exit.)

Day Five, 10:08am

There’s an “eco guide” gauge to the left of the speedometer, to which I paid no attention until today.

Sorry it’s kind of blurry.

Keeping the needle solidly on the green side of the gauge improves mileage. Once I started actively trying to keep the needle in the green bit, my mpg (according to the nifty little bar chart you get by pushing the button marked “hybrid” – remember?) started staying solidly above 40mpg.

Day Five, 10:29am

So I think I’ve mentioned that you can connect your smartphone to the Kia Optima hybrid, right?

And that it added inexplicable digits? (I still have no idea what was up with that.) I’m really liking the phone connection at this point; it’s incredibly handy and I don’t have to have a Bluetooth earpiece shoved into my delicate and tiny ears.

I have failed, however, to connect my iPod to the Kia (maybe you remember my, uh, classic iPod?), which I suspect is because I’ve had it since 2004. What, I don’t keep music on my phone. If I did have music on my phone, I would be able to listen to it via the Bluetooth connection.

There’s also a CD player. I think. It looks like a CD player and there are buttons that say “track,” but I packed all the physical CDs I have in boxes years ago and I don’t know where, exactly, the boxes are, so I can’t test the CD player. I’m going to guess it works just fine, since pretty much everything else does.

Day Five, 12:47pm

A couple final notes on the interior of the car, which probably should have been part of Day One:

The front seat – lots of room, and lots of space to move around. Again, I’ve had people of various shapes and sizes in the passenger seat and everyone’s been pretty happy.

How much leg room there is in the back seat depends partially on how tall the occupants of the front seats are – but even over on the passenger side, where my 6′ father has scooted the seat back, there’s a pretty decent amount of space left over.

A common issue with a lot of hybrids is not that the battery pack takes up a large part of the trunk, leaving way less space for storage. Here, you can clearly see that the batteries have noticeably but not significantly reduced the amount of space available.  It’s a decent compromise.

And finally, I found them. Where I should have seen them earlier, to be fair.

That’s where those buttons were hiding.

Next post: Final Impressions.

About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.